Shines In Playoffs
As good as he was as a player overall, West really shone in the playoffs. In the Lakers' 1965 finals against the Celtics, he averaged 46.3 points per game, the highest points-per-game average for any playoff series. When the Lakers again faced off against the Celtics in the 1969 finals, West was named most valuable player, the first and only time such honors have gone to a member of the losing team. In an interview West did with NBA.com on the occasion of the NBA's 50th anniversary, West recalled: "I thought we should have won in '69—I felt we had the better team. Those are the ones that leave emotional scars." Despite West's brilliance on the basketball court, the record of the Lakers through 1970 was a study in frustration. In the nine seasons from 1962 through 1970, the Lakers made it into the finals six times but lost all six times—five times to the Celtics and once to the New York Knicks. Half of the finals in which the Lakers played went to seven games, and in two of them against the Celtics, Boston won the seventh and deciding game by a single basket.
In the 1970 finals against the Knicks, West launched his famous bomb, dazzling not only the opponents but his own teammates as well. Walt Frazier of the Knicks recalled thinking: "The man's crazy. He looks determined. He thinks it's really going in!" Much to the amazement of Frazier and others, it did, sending Game 3 of the finals into overtime. In the end, however, the Lakers again came up dry, with the Knicks taking not only Game 3 but the series as well to win the NBA championship.